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Interview: David Beckham on his love of Hong Kong and his universal appeal

Written by
Matt Fleming

One of the most famous footballers in history. A style icon. A growing force in the world of fashion. One of the sexiest men on the planet. David Beckham has a never-ending plethora of monikers. The father-of-four is revered by fans across the globe and the love affair with Becks is strong in Hong Kong too, with his chiselled looks constantly gracing posters across the city. And the love is mutual as he adores heading to our shores regularly. Which, in fact, he did just a few weeks ago as he hit up British fashion label Kent & Curwen’s 90th anniversary bash.

We meet Posh Spice’s hubby in his hotel suite in Admiralty as we look out across the harbour at sundown. The 41-year-old is joined by Irish menswear designer Daniel Kearns, who has worked with luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen and Louis Vuitton. Kearns was appointed creative director of Kent & Curwen in February to oversee all creative aspects of the brand and work closely with Beckham, who signed a five-year partnership deal with the firm, which is owned by our city’s Trinity Group, last September. Together, they’re on a mission to create iconic heritage pieces that appeal to the younger fashionistas out there.

And now we’re just a few months away from the launch of the new K&C spring/summer 2017 collection that Beckham and Kearns have been working hard on. And they’re getting set to present the collection later this month ahead of its launch. Some of the details are still being ironed out but what is confirmed, though, is that the clothes are available in stores across the world early next year. So the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England footballer could return to our city many times in the coming months and we’re set to see his chiselled looks on yet more posters across town. He’s clearly excited about it. He tells us this on many occasions when we meet...

So, David, why did working with Kent & Curwen appeal to you?
There are so many things about Kent & Curwen that appeal to me. Obviously, being English, I love history and I love heritage. For a brand that’s been around for so many years, since 1926, it’s something that really interested me and it’s very British. 

So the heritage was really important to you?
Without a doubt. Obviously, as an Englishman, I love history. And the main thing that appealed to me more than anything was the heritage. 

How do you and Daniel intend to make this rich history appeal to the younger generation?
I think the great thing about Daniel is that he understands the heritage side of things and he also understands young people. In history and fashion, he has been working with brands that work in that way. As for me, I’m getting older now and like to dress in a very classic way. Thankfully, I have young children who also like to dress in a teenage way and I have a 17-year-old who understands fashion and enjoys fashion. That’s the exciting part.

You were actually involved in the selection process of finding a creative designer for Kent & Curwen. What were you looking for?
The process of picking the right creative designer was important. Although we want to take the Kent & Curwen name and brand in a different direction, we also want to keep the heritage and history that we already have. We have a brand that’s been around since 1926. Ninety years. That’s something that we really want to grab hold of and keep and make more special than it already is. So it was important to find the right person who understands that but also understands where we want to go next. That’s what I got from Daniel from day one. His history in this area speaks for itself but obviously we have to get on. We have to understand each other. He understands my style and there’s a lot of my style that goes into the design of the clothes, but with a twist in there as well. So far we’ve understood the really British feel of what we want to achieve.

The collection hits stores in January and February. There is expected to be a good buzz over here in Hong Kong about the clothes. Should we be excited?
You should be very excited about it!

Indeed! We can’t wait to see it and to see how your profile is part of the campaign. Actually, of course your profile is already visible in Hong Kong. You’ve been coming a lot over the past year. What is it about Hong Kong that you like?
I’ve never needed an excuse to come to Hong Kong! I love this place. For many years now, I’ve been coming here. First with Real Madrid [football club in Spain], then obviously now on the business side. I think it’s such an energising city. As soon as you step in, you feel the energy. You feel the excitement. You can see changes happening every single day. There’s so many buildings. New buildings. Every single year, there’s such a change. So I’m more than happy to keep coming as much as possible because I love it and with the partnership, it’s very important that I’m involved in every single detail, so I’ll continue to keep coming.

What’s the difference between ‘sportsman life’ and ‘businessman life’?
I found playing football for more than 20 years was my passion. It was something that I didn’t see as a joke. I would have done it for free over 20 years and that’s how I’ll always feel about football. On the business side, I’ve been very lucky to be able to work with great businessmen over the years. I’ve enjoyed the business part. I think it was important when it came to the end of my career that I was ready to step into something else. And it wasn’t just the day I finished that I stepped into something else. It was planned. I was 38 years old when I retired but I think I started properly preparing for it when I was around 35. On the business side of things, I enjoy working with great partners. When you do things that you enjoy, it’s pretty easy to come to terms with the fact that you don’t play football any more. 

There’s a certain appeal, an ‘attractiveness’, to David Beckham. What’s your secret?
I’m not sure. I’m lucky that I have lived in different countries and experienced different cultures. But I think people always see me as a very British man and that’s what appeals to people, especially in Asia. Here in Hong Kong, people like to see a man dressed in a nice British suit, especially if it’s a British man. That’s maybe what appeals to people? I don’t like talking about myself... 

But you’re the face of Kent and Curwen. You’re famous when it comes to the way you look! We’re interested in how the designers work with you on your looks...
I’m very lucky. I still appeal to young people and if it’s not me who appeals to young people it’s my son Brooklyn! So I’m very lucky that I have that still but I also appeal to the older gentleman who likes to wear smart suits and also likes to dress casually but in a more mature way. I believe Daniel also understands my style. 

What about your charity work?
My work with Unicef will always continue because I’ve been an ambassador now for more than 10 years and I’ve been part of Unicef for 15 years, so that’s my passion now. I am passionate about being a businessman. But my real passion is my work with Unicef. I love it. I love what we do. I love helping children around the world. I’m lucky that I’m part of an organisation that does so much good for children.

You’ve been so lucky that as one career ended, something so valuable was able to take over...
And that’s why I think it was so important that I was ready to step into something else as soon as I finished. When people ask me what replaced the buzz that you get from walking out at Wembley, I say it’s the stuff that I do at Unicef. This is what I care about. It’s what gives me that excitement. Like I said, I’m lucky to be in this position.

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